The laksa is one of the defining dishes of Southeast Asian culture, and yet, it’s really vague as to where the word originally came from, just like how people don’t know how the dish itself came about. Laksa in separate parts of the same country can be so vastly different that it’s hard to think of them as under the same category of dish. To make things easier for the uninitiated, it’s a hearty, seafood noodle dish- often spicy and soupy- which takes on the defining characteristics of wherever it comes from.
Here are five unique types of laksa for you to look out for, and why it’s totally worth it for you to visit their regions and try it for yourself.
1. KL Curry Laksa
Kuala Lumpur’s rendition of the laksa is the curry laksa. It’s sinful and thick with lots of variation in what you can put in there. The delicious toppings also make it a very colourful and appetising dish, and these toppings include anything from crispy lard, pork blood cubes, or even completely Halal ingredients.
This cluttered dish that speaks across many cultures with its flavours reflect how exciting and multicultural many of Malaysia’s biggest cities are.
Where to find it
Alor Corner Curry Noodle is a private, family-owned business in the famous Kuala Lumpur spot for tourists. It’s easy to accidentally miss the store due to its size, but it has a solid fanbase for good reason.
Alor Corner Curry Noodle
Address: Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur 50200
Opening Hours: 2pm- 10pm
Website: Alor Corner Curry Noodle
2. Singapore Laksa
Singapore’s laksa is sweet and coconutty, though whether the base emphasises the prawn stock or the coconut is up to the interpretation of the chef. It does have the curry element of KL Laksa, but the broth’s seafood sweetness closer resembles Penang’s prawn noodles, so this is a sort of cross-breed between the two and more. You can add cockles, fishcake, prawns and belachan - prawn paste chili - for extra flavour and spice.
One modification that is commonly made is the cutting of the noodles into smaller bite sized pieces so Singapore’s busy city people can eat it on the go.
Where to find it
Sungei Road’s laksa in Singapore is one of the most economical out there, where a bowl only costs about 2 USD. Their laksa comes with a tinge of charcoal flavour as they are one of the only stalls in Singapore still using a charcoal burner. Their broth is sweet and not as cloying as with many stalls you might find out there.
Sungei Road Laksa
Address: Blk 27 Jalan Berseh #01-100 Singapore 20027
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm. Closed on every first and third Wednesday of the month
Website: Sungei Road Laksa
These flat, white rolls of rice noodles in a pale sauce may look cute and unassuming, but the Laksam packs quite a punch. This unique looking dish comes from the lesser known states of Kelantan and Terengganu, which are located on the eastern side of the main Malaysian peninsula. The recipe uses just fish and coconut as thickening agents, making it a very rich concoction full of umami flavour. In fact, many modern interpretations have chosen to dial it down a little because too much of it can leave a richer than the desired feeling on one’s tongue.
The heavy usage of seafood in the Laksam makes sense, with the eastern coasts’ love for fishing and the sea.
Where to find it
Laksam is ubiquitous in Kelantan and Terengganu in Malaysia, with minor differences in both states. However, it’s a little harder for people in the major cities to find a good bowl of slurpy, savoury goodness. For the people from those states currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Kerabu Keramat is a great place to get a taste of home, with bowls of Laksam being snapped up even before it’s 8.30 am.
Restoran Nasi Kerabu Keramat (RNKK)
Address: No.9, Jalan 46B/26, Taman Sri Rampai, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 7.30 AM to 6 PM
Website: Restoran Nasi Kerabu Keramat (RNKK)
4. Penang Assam Laksa
Penang’s Assam Laksa is an international superstar - it’s appeared in lists of the world’s best dishes multiple times. But what is its flavour profile? Savoury? Sour? Sweet? Spicy? Well, our closest guess is that it’s all of those things, on top of being a better choice for your waistline due to an omission of coconut milk. Its stock is, instead, based off mackerel and tamarind.
This edgy, complex taste resembles a lot of Penang’s modern narrative - it’s artsy and hip, yet, its residents are steeped in old pragmatism and classic buildings.
This year, we have something new, we start consolidating our brand. We pride ourselves on our passion for quality, unparalleled service to exceed expectation, and engaging atmospheres you’ll never forget.Posted by Penang Air Itam Laksa on Tuesday, 20 May 2014
Where to find it
Touted by locals and tourists alike to be a haven for authentic laksa, Air Itam Laksa is a great place to satisfy your complex feelings about noodle dishes. After you’re done drooling over that, check out our Penang food guide to get even hungrier.
Penang Air Itam Laksa
Address: 1, Jalan Pasar, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 10:30 am to 7 pm
Website: Penang Air Itam Laksa
5. Sarawak Laksa
The Sarawak Laksa is a rich, flavourful dish with the slightest tang, only made more appetising with a spoonful of belachan and lime. The soup in this one is not as thick as its Singaporean cousin’s, but it still requires the addition of coconut milk. It doesn’t use either a curry base or fish base, unlike the previous four dishes. Instead, its base is a paste of no less than 15 spices and chillies - and makers of the paste often regard their own composition of the spices as a secret to be fiercely guarded.
Its distance from the other laksas could be explained by its location of origin. It’s from East Malaysia, Sarawak, a sea away from Singapore and the main Malaysian peninsula.
Where to find it
This is the new premises. (Opposite of the previous shop)Posted by Chong Choon Cafe 泉春茶室 on Thursday, 16 June 2016
For many Kuchingites, Chong Choon Cafe is the obvious pick if you want to try out the famous Sarawak laksa while you’re in the area. Easily accessible, bustling and famous, the place buzzes with the fun coffee shop energy that people love this part of Malaysia for.
Choong Choon Cafe
Address: 275, Jalan Chan Chin Ann, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 6.30 am to 1 pm
Website: Choong Choon Cafe
A culinary journey
Looks like you’ve just found five more reasons to visit Malaysia and Singapore! How can you resist all that spicy goodness? A bowl of the dish is like a warm hug that tells you more about the region. It is, perhaps, the love and pride that locals pour into its crafting that gives it the status of a comfort food and one of the best dishes in the world.
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